West Belfast 'hero' lorry driver Fra McCaffrey fighting for sight after overpass attack
A LORRY driver working night shifts through the pandemic "to ensure people are getting what they need" is fighting for his sight after his windscreen was smashed by a recycling bin filled large rocks hurled from an overpass.
Fra McCaffrey (56) from the Whiterock area of west Belfast has undergone two surgeries on his eye to remove glass following the attack as he drove to the Royal Mail office in Larne, Co Antrim, at 10.40pm on Friday.
However, surgeons do not know yet if they have managed to save sight in the eye for the father-of-four hailed a hero for restarting his lorry and driving it onto the hard shoulder to clear the high speed carriageway - potentially saving lives.
It is understood police believe the random attack was carefully planned, with a car needed to transport the brown bin full of rocks to the Ballyboley overpass which is in a sparsely populated countryside area.
Mr McCaffrey, who also takes tourists on excursions across Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way and works as a taxi driver, spent 17 years driving lorries for Bass, surviving hijackings during the Troubles.
"My father keeps saying `I don't know how I did it, I don't know how I got it started and was able to get it turned around'," his daughter Megan said last night.
"He said he can't believe it didn't `jack-knife' on him and come back and hit the cab and kill him.
"Police were saying to him that it shows that he is such an experienced driver that he was able to control it and get it onto the hard shoulder.
"We've been telling him `You're a hero'. But that's my daddy, he couldn't have lived with himself if he hadn't have got it away and someone else had been injured or killed."
His son Dan said surgeons "needed two goes to get the glass out" of his injury, with his livelihood now hanging in the balance.
"This face is badly injured. It's been a horrific few days. He drives taxis and lorries, he's been driving since I was a boy. This is career threatening. People have been saying, this is attempted murder.
"It was a quiet road with only a few houses nearby. A car would have been needed to do this. It's not just young children throwing a stone. They're at least in their late teens."
Police said an investigation "is underway" and officers want "anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area of the overpass or who captured dash-cam footage of the incident to contact them in Larne on 101 quoting reference number 1944 08/01/21".
"Details can also be reported online using the non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/
O'Donnell's GAC, where he has played and coached juveniles, described him as "a hard-working family man who is well got in O'Donnell's and beyond".
Mid and East Antrim mayor Peter Johnston said it was "a despicable attack which could have had tragic consequences".
"At a time when our emergency services and NHS staff are under the most extreme pressure they have ever faced, to put lives in danger in this way is just cruel and senseless.
"Lorry drivers are among the essential workers who ensure we have access to food and vital supplies at this difficult time, and they deserve to be able to carry out their jobs safely and without fear of being attacked in this way."
Deputy mayor Andrew Wilson branded it "attempted murder".
"Who in their right mind would do something like this? Somebody in our community knows who did it and they need to give the information to the police."
"... The thug responsible needs caught and put behind bars before they do something like this again."